Why is ‘Sriracha’ so expensive?

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The production of a prominent brand of sriracha hot sauce, known for its distinctive green-capped bottle and produced by Huy Fong Foods, faces ongoing challenges due to a scarcity of particular Mexican chilli pepper. This predicament, impacting the iconic spicy condiment, has led to soaring prices, escalating concerns just a year after production was abruptly halted. Researchers are linking this shortage to an ongoing drought exacerbated by human-induced climate change, further complicating matters.

Huy Fong Foods confirmed to Forbes that while the company resumed “some” production last fall, it continues to grapple with a shortfall in the supply of the essential chili pepper. This specific variety is primarily cultivated in northern Mexico and is dependent on precise growing conditions. The manufacturer, based in Irwindale, California, expressed uncertainty regarding the timeline for the shortage to resolve, along with uncertainty about when retailers might restock the distinctive sriracha bottles. Notably, major retailers such as Walmart and Target have discontinued online sales of the sauce, and available bottles on Amazon are approaching a staggering price of nearly $100.

A spokesperson from Huy Fong Foods highlighted to Food & Wine that an unexpected crop failure this spring compounded the existing agricultural challenges, describing the shortage as “unprecedented.” According to Guillermo Murray Tortarolo, a researcher from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, this crop failure stems from prolonged dry conditions aggravated by a “megadrought” in northern Mexico, the primary region for growing these chilies. NPR reported that this area, along with the southwestern U.S., had experienced the driest 22-year period in over 1,200 years, as outlined in a 2022 study published in Nature Climate Change. The study attributed the severity of the drought to climate change-induced hotter and drier conditions. However, the U.S. Drought Monitor noted a significant decrease in drought levels following recent weather events like atmospheric rivers and heavy snowfall earlier this year.

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In response to the chili pepper shortage, Huy Fong Foods had informed its vendors in April of its inability to produce popular products like sriracha, chili garlic sauce, and sambal oelek due to an acute shortage in chili pepper inventory. The company had to delay existing orders and paused new orders until September 2022, citing circumstances “beyond our control.”